The Vanishing American by Leslie Parry, 2009
The magic trick:
Filling the story with symbols and ideas
It’s my birthday, so I will continue a SSMT tradition of reserving one of my favorite stories for Aug. 18. This is certainly one of the best stories I’ve read for the magic tricks blog.
I’ve often espoused my love for Stuart Dybek on this website, and certainly Parry is hitting some of the same notes here. Like Dybek’s best work, “The Vanishing American” is positively loaded with stuff. We’re talking symbols, foils, callbacks. You name it, we got it here. And yes, it can be exhausting. Yes, it can be a little on the nose. But I love it. I love the author’s desire to pack every paragraph with ideas. The reader comes away from this story with no shortage of connections to make or things to think about. And that’s quite a trick on Parry’s part.
“You call out to the buffalo! You try to touch it! But it’s only a mirage.”
The buffalo drew closer, head bobbing, and snuffled Indian #9’s outstretched hand. A hot gust of air shot into his palm—he couldn’t believe it. A white buffalo! And its gentleness, the way its frothy nose rooted tenderly around his fingers. He moved his hand up between the horns and sunk it into the thick, kinked mange, which was so bright in the sun he almost had to close his eyes. The buffalo made a noise like a happy sigh, and bowed its head to pull at the dandelions. Indian #9 felt a sharp ache in his heart, whether because it was full or empty he didn’t know.